Category Archives: Culinary History

Ranch Fried Chicken

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Classic American ranch dressing herbs and seasonings appear in three components of the recipe—the buttermilk marinade, the flour coating, and the ranch dipping sauce—to pack summer flavors into this fried chicken. You can used  boneless thighs to ensure a juicy meat without the time consuming brining process with just taking 10 -15 minutes. Frying the thin thighs takes half the time that bone-in chicken parts require, which allows the fresh herb flavors toshine through. But I prefer brining bone-in, skin on chicken over night in the refrigerator.

MEANWHILE, BACK AT THE RANCH………

Talk about an unlikely origin story. The last thing that anyone expected Kenneth Henson of Thayer, Nebraska, to do during his three-year stint as a plumbing contractor in Alaska just after World War II was to develop a salad dressing recipe that would become one of America’s most popular condiments.

A plumbing contractor? In Alaska? You heard it right. Henson, 29 years old when he decamped for the then-U.S. territory, was a good cook, charged with preparing meals for his work-camp colleagues. A relentless kitchen tinkerer, he developed a buttermilk-based salad dressing that his crew loved.

In the early 1950s, Henson, who eventually changed his first name to Steve, relocated to the hills outside Santa Barbara, where he and his wife bought a 120-acre parcel and opened up a dude ranch, which they called “Hidden Valley.” Henson’s salad dressing was a fan favorite at meal time; eventually the Hensons began sending guests home with souvenir “ranch” seasoning packets.

Henson sold the “Hidden Valley Ranch” brand to Clorox for $8 million in 1972 and closed the ranch shortly thereafter. A shelfstable version of the dressing was created in 1983; today, ranch is the most popular salad dressing flavor in the United States.

Serves 4 to  6

Ingredients:
For the Chicken:
One  1-ounce packet Hidden Valley® Original Ranch® Salad Dressing & Seasoning Mix
3 cups whole buttermilk, divided
2 tablespoons minced fresh chives
2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro
2 teaspoons minced fresh dill
One 3-pound chicken cut into 8 pieces, rinsed, patted dry*

For the Coating:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cornstarch
3 tablespoons minced fresh chives
3 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon minced fresh dill
1 tablespoon ground black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons onion powder
Vegetable oil, for frying

For the Ranch Sauce:
1/2 cup mayonnaise
Salt , to taste
Ground black pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon chopped chives, for garnish

Special Equipment:
Use a Dutch oven that holds 6 quarts or more for this recipe.
Thermometer

Directions:
In a large resealable plastic bag, combine dressing mix and 2 cups buttermilk. Seal bag, and shake until blended. Spoon 1⁄2 cup dressing into a small bowl. Cover and refrigerate.

Add chicken to bag; seal and refrigerate for 8 hours. Drain chicken, discarding marinade. Lightly pat chicken dry with paper towels  and season with pepper.

For the Buttermilk Marinade: Whisk all ingredients together in bowl. Set aside 1/4 cup buttermilk mixture for ranch sauce.

For the Coating: Whisk all ingredients together in large bowl.

Set wire rack in rimmed baking sheet. Set second wire rack in second rimmed baking sheet and line half of rack with triple layer of paper towels.

Working with 1 piece at a time, dip chicken in remaining buttermilk mixture to coat, letting excess drip back into bowl; then dredge in coating, pressing to adhere.Dip in buttermilk and dredge in flour mixture again, pressing gently to adhere coating. Transfer chicken to first wire rack without paper towels. At this point, flour coated chicken may be refrigerated, uncovered, for up to 2 hours.

Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until it reaches 350°F. Working batches, add the chicken to the hot oil and fry until golden brown and a meat thermometer inserted in thickest portion registers 165°F, about 12 minutes, turning occasionally.  Adjust burner, if necessary, to maintain oil temperature between 325 and 350 °F.

Transfer chicken to paper towel–lined side of second wire rack to drain on each side for 30 seconds, then move to unlined side of rack. Return oil to 350 °F and repeat with remaining chicken.

For the Ranch Sauce: Whisk mayonnaise into reserved buttermilk mixture. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Transfer chicken to platter. Garnish with chopped chives and serve with ranch sauce.

Cook’s Notes:
You can use 8 chicken thighs or 8 drumsticks or a combination of thigh and drumsticks in the place of a whole cut up chicken.

KEY INGREDIENTS: THREE HERBS, THREE WAYS: Fresh herbs were used to further enhance the ranch flavor—chives, cilantro, and dill—in were used in three ways for this chicken: in the buttermilk dip, in the flour coating, and in the serving sauce.

 

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Poulet Basquaise

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Poulet Basquaise (Basque-Style Chicken)

When most people think of the Basque Country, they think of Spain.

Bilbao began the so-called Guggenheim effect. You see, the opening of the GuggenheimGuggenH.jpg Museum in Bilbao in northern Spain in 1997, shows how an imaginatively designed museum commissioned by an energetic mayor can help turn a city around. Visitors’ spending in Bilbao in the first three years after the museum opened raised over ($110m) in taxes for the regional government, enough to recoup the construction costs and leave something over.  In 2012, more than 1m people visited the museum, at least half of them from abroad. This was the third-highest number ever, so the building continues to attract visitors even though the collection on display is modest. Other cities without historic cultural centers now look to Bilbao as a model for what vision and imagination can achieve……hence the “Bilbao Guggenheim Effect”.  In addition, San Sebastián has all those Michelin star restaurants. And Pamplona, notoriously, lets bulls run through its streets once a year.week-pamplona_2611466b.jpg

The Basques are an ancient people who have inhabited this territory for thousands of tt2years.The Basque Country is made up of three distinct  administrative regions (the Autonomous Communities of the Basque Country and Navarre in Spain and the Northern Basque Country in France)  and  seven provinces, three of which are in southwestern France.

44MapBasquecolToday, the Spanish part is an autonomous region with a Basque government, while the French part answers to the central government in Paris. The Spanish side has had a strong independence movement, which has lately been eclipsed by Catalonia’s. At the height of its activity in the latter part of the last century, ETA, the Basque separatist group, did most of its fighting on the Spanish side, saving the French side as a hideout…….but I digress. That is another history lesson for another time.

Basque cuisine is influenced by the abundance of produce from the sea on one side and the fertile Ebro valley on the other. The great mountainous nature of the Basque Country has led to a difference between coastal cuisine dominated by fish and seafood, and inland cuisine with fresh and cured meats, many vegetables and legumes, and freshwater fish and salt cod. The French and Spanish influence is strong also, with a noted difference between the cuisine of either side of the modern border; even iconic Basque dishes and products, such as txakoli from the South, or Gâteau Basque (Biskotx) and Jambon de Bayonne from the North, are rarely seen on the other side.

Basques have also been quick to absorb new ingredients and techniques from new settlers and from their own trade and exploration links. Jews expelled from Spain and Portugal created a chocolate and confectionery industry in Bayonne still well-known today, and part of a wider confectionery and pastry tradition across the Basque Country. Basques also embraced the potato and the capsicum, used in hams, sausages and recipes, with pepper festivals around the area, notably Ezpeleta and Puente la Reina. And last but not least, in keeping with the Mediterranean diet, olive oil is more commonly used than butter in Basque cooking.

And with all of that local produce  available to the Basque, it is no wonder that Poulet Basquaise  or Chicken Basquise (or Basque Chicken)  is a local favorite. Chicken Basquaise is a dish that defines the simple elegance of French Basque cooking.

So, I know you are asking, “exactly what is Chicken Basquaise”?  Well, first of all, a basquaise is a type of dish prepared in the style of Basque cuisine that often includes tomatoes and sweet or hot red peppers. Chicken Basquaise originated in the town of   Soule . Originally consisting of vegetables and bread, this dish typical consists of  browned chicken pieces, then cooked in a casserole with a Pipérade, which is a mixture of ripe tomatoes , red and green peppers, garlic, onions and Espelette pepper.

And before you start to  cook this dish, you will need to make the Pipérade before you begin.10987_piperade_3000

Pipérade trumpets the versatility of French Basque cuisine.  This simple sauté is enlivened with the local cured pork, Bayonne ham, and a spicy paprika known as piment d’Espelette. In my version of this dish, I added a little of bit of Creole smoked sausage and bacon, for smokiness. Pipérade  is  great over braised chicken and baked fish, but you can also heed Julia Child’s advice and use it to top a plain omelette. Simply divine!

Chicken Basquaise is guaranteed to make your heart sing and your belly cry out for more. This  is a dish where Espelette peppers and chicken go together like the French and kissing,…….. Chicken Basquaise is a dish to smooch over. So make it a date – Chicken  Basquaise is one meal you’ll want to enjoy and get up close and personal with!

Serves 4

Ingredients:
6 medium tomatoes
4 chicken quarters, leg and thigh portions, skin on
1 Tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons olive oil
4 ounces thinly sliced Bayonne ham, cut into 1/2-inch squares
4 ounces smoked sausage, sliced
4 ounces bacon, diced
4 medium yellow onions, halved and thinly sliced
3 medium garlic cloves, minced
2 Tablespoons fresh Italian parsley, coarsely chopped
1 Tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, coarsely chopped
1 Tablespoon fresh marjoram leaves, coarsely chopped.
1 medium dried bay leaf
2 medium red, yellow, or orange bell peppers, seeded and sliced lengthwise into 1/4-inch strips
2 medium green bell peppers, seeded and sliced lengthwise into 1/4-inch strips
Kosher salt, to taste
Ground black pepper, to taste
2 teaspoons piment d’Espelette
2/3 to 3/4 cups chicken stock
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, for garnish

Directions:
Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil over high heat. Prepare an ice water bath by filling a medium bowl halfway with ice and water. Using the tip of a knife, remove the stem and cut a shallow X-shape into the bottom of each tomato. Place the tomatoes in the boiling water and blanch until the skin just starts to pucker and loosen, about 10 seconds. Drain and immediately immerse the tomatoes in the ice water bath. Using a small knife, peel the loosened skin and cut each tomato in half. With a small spoon, scrape out any seeds, then core and coarsely chop the remaining flesh. Set aside.

Rinse chicken pieces and pat dry with paper towels. Season well with salt and freshly ground pepper. Heat oil over medium-high heat in a 3-1/2- or 5-quart casserole or large Dutch oven.

When oil shimmers, add chicken pieces in a single layer (do this in batches, if needed) and let cook until very brown, turn, and repeat until pieces are well-browned all over, about 10 minutes per batch. Remove browned pieces to a plate and set aside. Discard excess oil and wipe out the pot with paper towels.

To the same pot, add 1 tablespoon of the oil. When the oil shimmers, add the ham, smoked sausage and bacon and cook, stirring occasionally, until it’s golden brown, about 8 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the meat mixture to a plate and set aside.

Return the pan to heat, add the remaining 2 teaspoons oil, and, once heated, add the onion and garlic. Cook, stirring rarely, until soft and beginning to color, about 8 minutes. Stir in the herbs and pepper slices and season well with salt and pepper. Cover and cook, stirring rarely, until the peppers are slightly softened, about 10 minutes.

Deglaze the pot with wine and scrape the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon or spatula.

Add the chicken stock. Stir in the diced tomatoes, meat mixture, and piment d’Espelette. Return the chicken to the pot.  Reduce heat, cover with a lid and simmer until chicken is cooked through, about 45 minutes.

To serve, remove the bay leaf  and sprinkle fresh parsley over the chicken. Serve with rice or potatoes, on the side, if desired.

Suggested wine pairing: Domaine Ilarria Irouléguy Rouge, France.

Go all-in on the Basquaise with a not-well-known Basque wine. Made from a blend of Tannat, Cabernet Franc, and Cabernet Sauvignon, Irouléguy’s not a delicate wine, but nor is it as big as wines made with these varieties in the New World. Its smoky flavor and dark fruits will merge nicely with the rustic onions, garlic, and red Espelette peppers in the sauce!

Cook’s Notes:
The traditional recipe calls for 2 pounds fresh cubed tomatoes, but one 14-ounce can of whole peeled canned tomatoes can  also be used as a substitute, in this recipe.

It is also a tradition to use a  3- to 3-1/2-pound broiler chicken, cut into 8 pieces, for this dish. You can always  ask your butcher to cut up the chicken for you at your local grocery store.

Bayonne ham is a cured ham product from the French Basque country. If you can’t find it in your local area, you can always use prosciutto or bacon.

Piment d’Espelette is France’s only native pepper, and it is so highly revered that it is protected by AOC status. It has a nice heat and is worth seeking out at a gourmet grocery or online. If you have trouble finding it, you can substitute cayenne pepper or paprika.

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Thank you so much!

TODAY.com Parenting Team FC Contributor

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It’s Never Too Late……

Legendary entertainer, Nona Hendryx is a vocalist, record producer, songwriter, musician, author, and actress. But she is best known for her work as a solo artist as well as for being one-third of the trio Labelle, who had a hit with “Lady Marmalade.” Her music has ranged from soul, funk, and R&B to hard rock, new wave, and new-age

In this video clip, Nona Hendryx talks about her mom opening a restaurant at the age of 73….. and the importance of family, food and purpose. Truly inspiring!

Originally Published on youtube.com on  October  3, 2016.

Order your copy of the “God’s Love We Deliver Cookbook”  today! glwd.org/cookbook

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Chicken Maryland with Corn and Crab Fritters

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Unraveling the culinary history of Chicken Maryland is like pulling on a loose thread on a fraying sweater that may end up being a ball of yarn, to create a brand new sweater.

The dish goes by a number of aliases in the culinary world, including Maryland Fried Chicken, Chicken Maryland, Maryland Chicken, and Chicken à la Maryland. Some would even say that Chicken Maryland is a French rendition of an American recipe. Even minus the “à la”, the dish’s reversed word order betrays its transatlantic quality.

The first time I ever heard of Chicken Maryland was in the novel Tender is the Night by F. Scot Fitzgerald, first published in 1934.

330px-F_Scott_Fitzgerald_1921.jpgBorn in 1896 in Saint Paul, Minnesota, to an upper-middle-class family, Fitzgerald was named after his famous second cousin, three times removed on his father’s side, Francis Scott Key but was always known as plain Scott Fitzgerald. His father was Edward Fitzgerald, of Irish and English ancestry, who had moved to St. Paul from Maryland after the Civil War, and was described as “a quiet gentlemanly man with beautiful Southern manners”. His mother was Mary “Molly” McQuillan Fitzgerald, the daughter of an Irish immigrant who had made his fortune in the wholesale grocery business. Fitzgerald was the first cousin once removed of Mary Surratt, hanged in 1865 for conspiring to assassinate Abraham Lincoln.

Nicole Diver, the anti-heroine of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s final novel, Tender is the Night is described as “the18499063226.jpg exact furthermost evolution of a class,” in Fitzgerald’s words,  and in command of the most exquisite manners and taste. She has an excellent ear for foreign languages. However, it is only well into the book the reader discovers that Nicole is not truly in command of anything. She is a schizophrenic, very much like Fitzgerald’s equally glamorous wife Zelda, mentally crippled and hovering constantly on the edge of mania. Throughout the book, she is trying desperately to keep it together, reassuring herself that “everything is all right – if I can finish translating this damn recipe for Chicken à la Maryland into French.”

Nicole is consumed with translating a recipe indicates the circumscription of her life. She is far from the independent woman she first appears, she is in fact utterly dependent on her psychiatrist husband to maintain her fragile sanity. Although she might like to do something “serious” like study archaeology, her “principal interest” as she says at one point, she is confined to the domestic sphere. Her intellectual endeavors are limited to preparing recipes for the family cook. Or at least one specific recipe: Chicken Maryland.

Fitzgerald began working on Tender is the Night during the late 1920s but was sidetracked by financial difficulties that necessitated his writing commercial short stories, and by the schizophrenia that struck Zelda in 1930. Her emotional health remained fragile for the rest of her life. In February 1932, she was hospitalized at the Phipps Clinic at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, Maryland. During this time, Fitzgerald rented the “La Paix” estate in the suburb of Towson, Maryland to work on his latest book, the story of the rise and fall of Dick Diver, a promising young psychiatrist who falls in love with and marries Nicole Warren, one of his patients. The book went through many versions. Some critics have seen the book as a thinly veiled autobiographical novel recounting Fitzgerald’s problems with his wife, the corrosive effects of wealth and a decadent lifestyle, his own egoism and self-confidence, and his continuing alcoholism. The book was finally published in 1934. Critics who had waited nine years for the follow-up to The Great Gatsby had mixed opinions about the novel. Most were thrown off by its three-part structure and many felt that Fitzgerald had not lived up to their expectations. The novel did not sell well upon publication but, like the earlier Gatsby, the book’s reputation has since risen significantly. Fitzgerald’s alcoholism and financial difficulties, in addition to Zelda’s mental illness, made for difficult years in Baltimore. He was hospitalized nine times at Johns Hopkins Hospital, and his friend H. L. Mencken noted in a 1934 letter that “The case of F. Scott Fitzgerald has become distressing. He is boozing in a wild manner and has become a nuisance.

Given his Southern roots and considering that Fitzgerald’s novel went through seventeen drafts before publication, it is probably fair to conclude that Fitzgerald put thought into his selection of Chicken à la Maryland, or fried chicken with white gravy, as the dish that Nicole believes will hold her fragile world together. He even mentions it twice, having Rosemary notice on her second encounter with the Divers that Nicole, “her brown back hanging from her pearls, was looking through a recipe book for Chicken Maryland.” Like Nicole’s brown back, the golden-brown crust of chicken Maryland symbolizes the good life lived by the expatriate American characters who fill the imagination of the reader.

The second time I ever heard the dish mentioned was in the classic 1945 film “Christmas in Connecticut”, starring Barbara Stanwyck, Dennis Morgan, Sydney Greenstreet, Reginald Gardiner and S. Z. Sakall . The movie opens with two Navy men awaiting rescue on a raft for 18 days after their ship has been torpedoed, and Jones (Morgan) dreams about food and envisions his first meal: steak and baked potatoes, asparagus with hollandaise sauce, chocolate cake and ice cream. But the hospital food for the shipwrecked survivor is a big disappointment: a bowl of milk with a raw egg floating in the center—even though his shipmate dines on steak and Chicken Maryland.
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While convalescing and still dreaming of that special meal, Jones comes across the menu of the month by Elizabeth Lane (Stanwyck), “America’s Best Cook,” in Smart Housekeeping Magazine. Lane writes a monthly column for the magazine called “Diary of a Housewife” in which she details domestic life on her farm in Connecticut— and in the December issue, a Christmas dinner featuring fresh fruit cup, olives, bouillon, roast goose Bernoise with walnut dressing and giblet gravy, cranberry-orange relish, buttered green beans, candied sweet potatoes, tomatoes, celery soufflé, hot rolls, lettuce with Russian dressing, and for dessert, mince pie, pumpkin pie, ice cream, old-fashioned plum pudding, fresh fruit, mixed nuts, mints, and coffee—an unheard of feast in wartime America.

However, what Jones and the readers do not know, is that Lane lives in a flat in New York City, basing the descriptions of the farmhouse on that of her architect friend, Sloan (Gardiner), that she isn’t married and doesn’t have a baby, and that she doesn’t know how to cook! Yet her dinnertime preparations are mouthwatering to readers who are still enduring rationing: “I took crisp lettuce, romaine, and crinkly endive from my own garden for my husband’s favorite salad. For this I made a rich, creamy blue cheese dressing. Then to prepare roast duck his favorite way, I rub salt and pepper inside, then brown the duck in its own fat….” Her friend, Bassenak (Sakall), who owns a Hungarian restaurant around the corner from her apartment, provides Lane with the menus and recipes.

The plot thickens, and the menu, gets complicated when her magazine’s owner, Yardley (Greenstreet), compels her to entertain the shipwrecked sailor at “her farm” for Christmas: “You can imagine how much it’ll mean to him to have a nice homey Christmas with your wonderful cooking. To solve this dilemma, Lane agrees to marry Sloan, at his farm, on Christmas, and he agrees to entertain Yardley and Jones for the holiday. For those of you who have not seen the movie, the time spent at the farm is a comedy of double meanings and hidden identities, but among the most humorous moments to be enjoyed, but the viewing audience.

In the United States, fried chicken is traditionally considered a Southern dish. Contrary to popular belief, Southerners were not the first people in the world to fry chickens, of course.

People have been frying all sorts of foods, like meats, breads, and vegetables since ancient times and chicken is a global food with recipes varying according to the era, culture and cuisine.

The earliest known recipe for fried chicken is Pullum frontonianum (chicken à la Fronto) a dish from ancient Rome, found in Apicius, a cookbook by Marcus Gavius Apicius 4th or early 5th century. Almost every country has its own version of fried chicken, from Vietnam’s Ga Xao to Italy’s pollo fritto and Austria’s Weiner Backhendl.

This fuel-efficient cooking method had several advantages, one of which was portability. Dredging meat with flour and spices before cooking tenderized the item and enhanced its flavor. Medieval European cooks built on this concept, creating fricassee. Fricassee is not fried, but simmered in butter and served with creamy sauce.

When it comes to food, Maryland has its fair share of unique Mid-Atlantic fare that is not quiet southern, but not so northeastern either. The first settlements in what is present day Maryland were founded by wealthy Englishmen on the eastern shores of the Chesapeake Bay in 1634. They soon established the lavish social life they had been accustomed to in England. Just as lavish was the cuisine that was served by these gentry of the Old World, typical English foods were combined with the cooking skills of African slaves and the natural ingredients available, in the New World (Lee 1992).

Seventeenth century descriptions of colonial fare ignored the humble chicken for the most part. In the earliest manuscripts to enter America there are, of course, chicken recipes for roasts, stews, and pies, and none other than Governor William Byrd II was dining on the iconic southern dish of fried chicken at his Virginia plantation by 1709 (Smith, 2013).

By the mid 1700s, the efficient and simple cooking process of frying food was very well adapted to the plantation life of African-American slaves, who were often allowed to raise their own chickens. The idea of making a sauce or a gravy to go with fried chicken must have occurred early on, at least in Maryland, where such a match came to be known as “Maryland Fried Chicken.

Maryland-style fried chicken is traditionally served with gravy, reminiscent of fricassee. Batter-fried chicken appears to be a gift from northern medieval European cuisine.

Ironically, fried chicken did not become particularly popular in the northern United States until well into the nineteenth century. The Scottish, who enjoyed frying their chickens rather than boiling or baking them as the English did, may have brought the method with them when they settled the South, in particular in the mountain regions of North Carolina and Virginia (Mariani, 2013; Smith 2013).

Before that, the dish  was usually referred to by many different names. The main distinction of Chicken Maryland is that it does not contain the multitude of seasoning and herbs that are found in most fried chicken recipes. The chicken is fried in a shallow pan, most commonly a cast iron skillet, rather deep fried in lard or oil like Southern Fried Chicken. The traditional recipe for Chicken Maryland is very basic and is often suggested to be eaten cold the following day. In its earliest form, fried chicken was seen as a picnic food.

By 1878 a dish by the name of Maryland Fried Chicken was listed on the menu of the Grand Union Hotel in Saratoga, New York (Mariani, 2013).

The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad (B&O Railroad) is one of the oldest railroads in the United States and the first common carrier railroad operating from 1828 to 1987. It came into being mostly because the city of Baltimore wanted to compete with the newly constructed Erie Canal ,which served New York City. At first, this railroad was located entirely in the state of Maryland with an original line from the port of Baltimore west to Sandy Hook. At this point to continue westward, it had to cross into Virginia (now West Virginia) over the Potomac River, adjacent to the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers. From there it passed through Virginia from Harpers Ferry to a point just west of the junction of Patterson Creek and the North Branch Potomac River where it crossed back into Maryland to reach Cumberland. From there it was extended to the Ohio River at Wheeling and a few years later also to Parkersburg, West Virginia. In It’s heyday, the B&O Railroad serviced major cities such as New York City, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, D.C., Chicago, St. Louis, Missouri along it’s route. B&O’s motto: “Linking 13 Great States with the Nation” became apart of the B&O Railroad’s immortality has come from being one of the four featured railroads on the U.S. version of the board game Monopoly, but it is the only railroad on the board which did not serve Atlantic City, New Jersey, directly. It is now part of the CSX Transportation (CSX) network, and includes the oldest operational railroad bridge in the USA.

Chicken Maryland was listed on B&O Railroad Dinning menu. During its existence from 1881 through 1971, “the B&O Dining Car and Commissary Department rarely turned a profit, but the railroad believed that if it provided superior dining and impeccable courtesy, it would attract passengers, shippers and investors,”(Greco & Spence, ). According to “Dining on the B & O”, many of the railroad’s recipes were originally sourced from Charles Fellows’ 1904 book  “The Culinary Handbook.”

The Handbook’s author had a disdain for the affectation of “a la” and thus the recipe is listed here as “Chicken Maryland.” Ultimately, the recipe is derived from that book as well as multiple versions of the B&O’s culinary references and chefs’ notes. Based on the different B & O “General Notice” manuals, the chicken in this dish may have been fried or baked at various times during the height of its existence. I opted to bake it since I’ve done the whole frying thing on here before. Rather than gravy, a bechamel sauce which called for ¼ cup of “Mushroom Essence or purée” was to be served over the chicken.

Some local taverns in Baltimore also listed dishes similar to Maryland Fried Chicken, and served it with banana and/or corn fritters.

So why bananas? Bananas were once considered a luxury fruit. Despite of the banana’s popularity in the tropics, it remained virtually unknown in the U.S. until the late 1800s. Bananas were formally introduced to the American public at the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia which included a 40-acre display of tropical plants. A local grocer sold individual bananas, wrapped neatly in tinfoil, for ten cents— an hours wage at the time. But bananas remained an expensive luxury, available only in port cities, like Baltimore for a number of years after the Exposition. And Baltimore imported a lot of bananas.

4a30328a.preview (1).jpgBaltimore, Maryland, circa 1905. “Unloading banana steamer.” A teeming scene that calls to mind the paintings of Brueghel, if Brueghel ever did bananas. Note the damage from the Great Fire of 1904.

By the end of the century advancements in refrigerated steamship and rail transportation made it possible to ship bananas to all parts of North America and so began the banana QC_Dept (2).jpgboom. Aggressive marketing campaigns taught Americans how to eat the exotic fruit. Newly affordable, the banana became a hit and banana production shifted into high gear in the Caribbean and Latin American Countries.
Fannie Farmer, Food and Cookery for the Sick and Convalescent

The dish first began appearing in American cookbooks during the late nineteenth century. Fannie Farmer included a recipe for “Maryland Chicken” in the “Boston Cooking-School Cook Book” (1896), the most successful American cook book of its age, which has never since gone out of print. Farmer, who was born in Boston, Massachusetts, calls for dredging the chicken in flour, baking it and basting it with butter, then covering it with cream sauce. Most southern recipes called for frying chicken in lard rather than baking it in butter, but Farmer, who struggled with ill health throughout her life, chose a less rich approach. In fact she included her doctored recipe for Chicken Maryland within her well-known 1904 recipe book “Food and Cookery for the Sick and Convalescent“.

Auguste Escoffier, the French “king of chefs” fell in love with the dish when he tried it at Martin’s 330px-Auguste_Escoffier_01restaurant in New York in 1908. By the time Escoffier discovered Chicken à la Maryland, it had become an international hit. He included a recipe for “poulet sauté Maryland in Ma Cuisine, his last cookbook – designed for the home chef, published in 1934, ironically the same year Tender is the Night was published. Escoffier’s sophisticated approach substituted a coating of bread crumbs for flour, Escoffier’s sophisticated approach substituted a coating of bread crumbs for flour, fried the chicken in clarified butter in a pan, not baked in an oven and served the dish alongside fried bananas, sweet corn fritters, and potato croquettes and bacon. He recommended coating the dish with béchamel,  to which a little grated horseradish may be added or tomato sauce. In his recipe, there was no mention of whether to scrape up the pan drippings into the sauce.

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Most famously, Chicken à la Maryland was served at the very last First Class luncheon held aboard the Titanic, on April 14, 1912. By then the dish had come to symbolize the apogee of American international culture. The Titanic seems to hold this place still in popular culture. An original menu for its last luncheon, along with one other menu from the doomed voyage, was auctioned in 2012 for $160,450 – making them the most expensive menus ever sold.

Perhaps the best explanation for the name and the fame is the following one, found in an article in the Maryland newspaper the Frederick News Post  of September 24, 1932.  The article was a review of a published cookery book called Eat Drink and Be Merry in Maryland by Frederick Philip Stieff (1998).

“… but a customer discovered, much to her sorrow, that there is no definition, not even any recognition of chicken a la Maryland. She gave vent to her sorrow and anger in the words “What kind of book is this anyway?” …. After the customer had gone her way, the question was put up to the author of the book. His reply was “As a matter of fact I don’t think that the name chicken a la Maryland is original with Marylanders. I think it more likely that this was a name applied by outsiders who camt to our State, ate our fried chicken, which has always been of a superior quality, and then went away to tell other people about the fried chicken they had in Maryland – chicken the way they fry it in Maryland – chicken in the Maryland style, and hence, chicken a la Maryland.  I don’t pretend to be a cook. All I did was to act as an intermediary. That is, collect the recipes and have them published in a book. The recipes bear the original names under which they came to me. I do not remember that there was any recipes for chicken a la Maryland. There are half a dozen recipes for fried chicken, however, and one of them, no doubt, will answer the demand for chicken a la Maryland.”

James Beard notes in American Cookery (1972), stated that, there is no other American amer-1972cbeard%20rapoport%20style%201_0hicken recipe quite so internationally famous as Chicken à la Maryland.” The recipes vary enormously, according to Beard, but the great American chef’s favorite is clearly that inherited from his father John Beard, who cooked it on Sunday mornings. According to James, his father began preparing his version of the dish by frying side bacon in a cast-iron skillet over a low flame. When the bacon had crisped and the fat had been rendered, he removed the pork and added pieces of chicken dredged in flour, salt, and pepper to the skillet. With frequent turnings to produce an even brown,  the elder Beard fried the chicken in the bacon fat, then placed a lid over the pan to let the meat steam in its own juices. Next the lid was removed, the chicken crisped up and removed, then the pan was degreased, and a gravy made from the pan scrapings, flour, two cups of rich milk, and lots of pepper. Served alongside biscuits or popovers, who wouldn’t spend their life dreaming of such a wonderful dish from their  childhood!

As a dish, Chicken Maryland is served in a variety of ways around the world. In England it is a meal consisting of battered fried chicken, served with banana, pineapple and corn fritters, peas and a slice of bacon. In Australia, it is served with a version of hush puppies and a healthy slice of ham. But the dish in this case, refers to just the chicken leg and thigh portions being served with the accompaniments. In Argentina, a battered boneless chicken breast or cutlet is served with a fried egg on top and creamed corn on the side. Where or how these variations which differ so widely came from or how they developed is unknown.

And with that being said, here is my version of Maryland Chicken served with Corn and Crab Fritters.

Enjoy!

Serves 4 to 6

Chicken Maryland

Ingredients:
2 cups buttermilk
1 cup all-purpose flour
Kosher salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 whole chicken (3 to 4 pounds), cut into 8 serving pieces, backbone reserved
4 slices uncooked bacon
Vegetable oil, for frying
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus extra for basting
1 1/2 cups whole milk

Directions:
Add the buttermilk and the chicken to a large bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and place the bowl in the refrigerator. Brine the chicken for several hours or overnight for best results.

Remove the chicken from the brine. In a shallow bowl, season flour with salt and pepper. Season chicken lightly with salt and pepper and dredge each piece in flour, shaking off excess. Reserve seasoned flour.

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Heat a cast iron skillet over medium heat. Fry the bacon until crispy and brown. Place the bacon on paper towels to drain the fat and set aside. Pour off grease into a heatproof container and set aside. Return skillet to burner.

In a large cast iron skillet, heat 1/4 inch oil over high heat to 350°F. Carefully lay chicken pieces in hot oil, skin side down, and fry until lightly browned, 1-2 minutes. Using tongs, turn chicken and brown lightly on other side. Turn chicken once more so that it’s skin side down again and cover skillet. Cook, covered for 2 minutes. Remove cover and continue frying chicken, turning as necessary, until will browned on both sides and just cooked through, about 5 minutes longer. Transfer chicken to a wire rack set over a baking sheet and sprinkle lightly with salt. Brush with melted butter. Transfer to oven and bake until internal temperature reaches 180° (about 35 minutes), basting frequently with butter.

Pour off the oil into a heatproof container and return skillet to burner. Add butter and cook until melted and foamy, whisking to scrape up any browned bits. Add 2 tablespoons of reserved seasoned flour, whisking to form a paste. Whisk in milk and cook until a smooth gravy forms that coats the back of a spoon, about 3 minutes. Season gravy with salt and a generous amount of black pepper.

Place the chicken onto serving plates and ladle the gravy on top. Serve with corn and crab fritters, collard greens and mashed potatoes, if desired.

Corn and Crab Fritters

Makes about a dozen, 2-inch fritters

Ingredients:
1 can sweet corn, well drained
3.7 ounces fresh crabmeat, picked
1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1/8 cup fresh chives, finely chopped
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons yellow cornmeal
Cooked bacon, reserved from above, crumbled
1 large egg
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup vegetable oil for frying
Finishing salt such as Maldon or Fleur de Sel

Directions:
Add the corn, crab, cheese, basil, parsley, chives, flour, cornmeal,  bacon, egg and black pepper into a bowl and stir well to combine.

Prepare a paper towel lined wire rack.

Heat the vegetable oil in a frying pan over medium heat until shimmering.
Add the fritter mixture 1 heaping tablespoon at a time to the pan and fry until golden brown on one side.

Gently flip the fritter over with a spatula and give it a light press to flatten it out, and then fry until the other side becomes golden brown and crisp.

Drain the fritters on the paper towels, and then sprinkle with finishing salt before serving.

Sources:
Apicus. Roman cookery book: A critical translation of The art of Cooking. New York: British Book Centre, 1959.

Beard, James, and Earl Thollander. James Beard’s American Cookery. Little, Brown and Company, 1972.

Farmer, Fannie Merritt. The 1896 Boston Cooking-School cook book. New York, NY: Gramercy , Reprinted 1997.

Farmer, Fannie Merritt. Food and cookery for the sick and convalescent. Boston, MA: Little, Brown, and Company, 1904.

Fellows, Charles, Anne M. Cranston, and Elanne C. Callahan. The culinary handbook: The most complete and serviceable reference book to things culinary ever published. Chicago, IL: Published by The Hotel Monthly, 325 Dearborn Street, Chicago, 1904.

Fitzgerald, F. Scott. Tender is the Night. New York: Charles Scribner, 1934.

Greco, Thomas J., and Karl D. Spence. Dining on the B&O: Recipes and Sidelights from a Bygone Age. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2009.

Howells, Marion, Vyvyan Beresford Holland, and Andre L. Simon (eds). Ma Cuisine: Auguste Escoffier. London: Paul Hamlyn, 1965.

Lee, Hilde Gabriel. Taste of the States: A food history of America. Charlottesville, VA: Howell Press, 1992.

Mariani, John. The encyclopedia of American food and drink. New York, NY: Ticknor & Fields, 2013.

Smith, Andrew F. The Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2013.

Stieff, Frederick Philip. Eat, Drink & Be Merry in Maryland. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998.

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Crespelle alla Fiorintina

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catherine_de_medicisThe culinary historical trail leads to Catherine de’ Medici, the Florentine Queen of France, for introducing these savory crepes to French cuisine with the help of her Tuscan chefs.

In 1533, at age fourteen, she was married to Henry of Orléans, the future king of France.
When she moved to France, an entourage of friends, servants, and waiters accompanied her. The Florentine cooks who went with her brought with them the secrets of Italian cooking to France, introducing peas, beans, artichokes, canard a l’orange, (duck a la orange) and carabaccia (onion soup). The pastry makers also demonstrated their innovative genius with sorbets and ice creams, marmalades, fruits in syrup, pastry making, and pasta. A certain Sir Frangipani gave his name to the custard and the tart known in France as Frangipane. Is is not ironic that all these dishes that are considered so quintessentially French, are actually Italian in origin.

Catherine also brought with her to the French table a new protocol, such as the separation of salty and sweet dishes, at a time when sweets were still consumed together with meat and fish in the medieval style all over Europe. Everyone in France was amazed by the Florentine elegance she  introduced, including gracious table settings and dining, fine linen with elegant embroidery, as well as luxurious silverware and crystal stemware.

At the time, French cooking was already a rich, evolving discipline, and the presence of the new style profoundly influenced French cuisine over the next few centuries. Catherine and her army of Florentine chefs reformed the antique French cooking of a medieval tradition and transformed the food we know as today as the modern French cooking. As time went on, French cooks improved and magnified the Florentine contributions. While many dishes and techniques were being forgotten in Italy, the French made them into international cuisine.

And based on the  various  evidence in the culinary literature, it suggests that crepes were also Florentine in origin and the French adapted them into what we now enjoy  today, in both sweet and savory forms. Crespelle  appears to be like Cannelloni, which are pasta tubes filled with spinach and ricotta, but the crespelle is actually a very thin pancake crepe made of flour and eggs instead of a thick sheet of pasta.

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Photo Credit: Josephine Guerriero, Pezzole delle nonna, Posta La Ricetta

In the Tuscan countryside, this dish was formerly  called “pezzole delle nonna.” Pezzole is the Tuscan way of saying “fazzoletto” which means “handkerchief”  and so pezzole delle Nonna  can be translated as  “Grandma’s Handkerchiefs“. Pezzoles can be described as omelets or crepes stuffed with ricotta cheese and vegetables covered with a Béchamel sauce. They are neatly folded into quarters and served family style in a dish, looking very much like handkerchiefs in a stacked in a drawer.  Given its past, and its modern incarnations, this  dish is definitely a home-style comfort food and is  found in extremely traditional Tuscan trattorias.

Serves 8

Ingredients:
For the Crespelle batter:
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 large eggs, beaten
1 tablespoon melted unsalted butter
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons whole milk

For the filling:
1 pound fresh spinach, washed, stems removed
1/2 pound ricotta
3/4 cup finely grated Parmesan
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
Pinch freshly grated nutmeg

For the Béchamel:
4 tablespoons butter
6 tablespoons flour
1 3/4 cups milk
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
Pinch freshly grated nutmeg

To Finish:
About 2 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
1 cup tomato passata or  prepared tomato sauce (See Cook’s Notes)

Directions:
For the crepes: In a bowl whisk together all the ingredients to form a smooth, thin batter. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before proceeding. Heat a small skillet or crepe pan and when hot, brush lightly with butter. Ladle about 1/4 cup of crepe batter into the pan, tilting the skillet to evenly coat the pan. Cook until golden brown on the bottom and the top begins to look dry, 1 to 2 minutes. Using a spatula, carefully turn the crepe and cook the second side until the bottom colors slightly, about 30 seconds. Transfer to a plate and cover loosely to keep warm. Repeat with remaining batter to yield 8 crepes

For the filling:  Bring water to a boil in a saucepan and blanch spinach for a few minutes. Drain and dry  the spinach with a kitchen towel by squeezing the spinach to extract any remaining moisture, then coarsely chop to yield about 1 cup. In a bowl, combine the spinach, ricotta, Parmesan, eggs, salt, pepper, nutmeg, and stir to thoroughly combine. Set aside.

 Preheat the oven to 375 ° F.

Lightly butter a 1  1/2 quart casserole dish.

Divide the spinach filling evenly among the crepes, using about 1/3 cup filling for each. Roll the crepes, like enchiladas, up around the filling and place in the buttered dish. Set aside while preparing the sauce.

For the Béchamel sauce: In a saucepan,  melt the butter. Whisk in the flour until smooth and continue to cook for 3 minutes, being careful not to brown. Slowly whisk in the cold milk, and cook, stirring, until the sauce comes to a boil and thickens, about 2 minutes. Continue cooking until the floury taste is gone, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg.

To finish: Pour the béchamel over the crepes, drizzle with butter, and bake for 20 minutes, until lightly browned on top. Serve hot, with a little tomato passata spooned over the top of each serving.

Cook’s Notes:
You are probably asking yourself, “What is passata?”  Well, passata is basically just an uncooked sauce made with crushed and sieved tomatoes. What makes it so special? Usually, high quality ripe tomatoes are used for passata, resulting in a well flavored tomato base that is generally superior to standard canned tomatoes. Passata is an excellent base for sauces and perfect as a pizza sauce.

Passata is available in Italian delis and specialty gourmet markets. In Europe, passata is widely available in supermarkets. You will find it near the pasta sauces and canned tomatoes. Usually it is sold in a tall jar or a carton. But for some reason, although it is found all over Italy and Europe in general, passata does not seem to be sold widely in the United States. That’s a pity because it’s a great store-cupboard ingredient to have on hand. If you are having trouble getting your hands on passata, you can purchase it online. Amazon stocks good quality Cento Tomato Passata made from Italian San Marzano tomatoes.

How To Make Passata: If you do not have the real thing, you can make a reasonable substitute at home. Use the best quality tomatoes you can find, drain them and sieve or purée in a food processor. But do not use tomato paste, because it is thick, concentrated and highly processed. You can also add salt and other seasonings to taste, like basil or oregano.

Sources:
Orieux, Jean. Catherine de Médicis, ou, La reine noire. Paris: Flammarion, 1986.

Volpe, Anna Maria. “Caterina de Medici: A Tuscan Queen In France.” Caterina de medici, http://www.annamariavolpi.com/caterina_de_medici.html. Date Accessed: 16 December 2016.

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Poulet Rochambeau

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Poulet Rochambeau (Chicken Rochambeau)

The tradition of Réveillon, the dinner parties held by the French on Christmas Eve is alive and well in New Orleans.  In order to stay awake until Midnight Mass, French families would draw out dinner right up till it was time to leave for church.

That means lots of good Creole-French food, of which Chicken Rochambeau is one of my favorites dishes. This is a great dish to make around holiday time because it calls for roast chicken, and there’s bound to be lots of roast chicken or turkey leftovers around many a New Orleans household at Christmas time.  Traditionally, this Louisiana Creole dish is half a chicken (breast, leg, and thigh), which is boned , leaving the skin intact. The chicken is then  roasted and served as a layered dish – first a slice of baked ham, followed by a brown, Rochambeau sauce made of chicken stock and brown sugar, with a final nap of Béarnaise sauce covering the chicken

Personally, I like to serve this dish with a rich  Marchand de Vin Sauce. which I used in this recipe. The  traditional brown sugar sauce is listed below, if you want to serve the dish in that  fashion.

Trying  to find the origins of this dish is just as elusive as the Scarlet Pimpernel.  Antoine’s,  the  oldest family-run restaurant  in the United States, established   in New Orleans, Louisiana  in 1840, is famous for this chicken dish. The story is that the restaurateur Antoine Alciatore,  a French immigrant and the restaurant’s namesake, created the dish to honor the Comte du Rochambeau.

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The most famous Frenchman known in America was the Marquis de Lafayette, an American Revolutionary hero who has  parks named in his honor throughout the United States. However there is another French aristocrat who fought on the side of the Americans during the Revolutionary War and has been long neglected by history and his name was Jean-Baptiste Donatien de Vimeur, Comte de Rochambeau (1725 – 1807). In 1780, he was was given the rank of Lieutenant General along with 7,000 troops to help George Washington defeat the British. Eventually his forces left Rhode Island for Connecticut to join Washington on the Hudson River. This culminated in the march of their combined forces, the siege of Yorktown, and (along with the aid of the Marquis de Lafayette) the defeat of Cornwallis.

Upon his return to France, Rochambeau was honored by King Louis XVI and was made governor of the province of Picardy. He supported the French Revolution of 1789, and on 28 December 1791 he and Nicolas Luckner became the last two generals created Marshal of France by Louis XVI. When the French Revolutionary Wars broke out, he commanded the Armée du Nord for a time in 1792 but resigned after several reversals to the Austrians. He was arrested during the Reign of Terror in 1793–94 and narrowly escaped the guillotine. He was subsequently pensioned by Napoleon and died at Thoré-la-Rochette during the Empire.

A statue of Rochambeau by sculptor Ferdinand Hamar was unveiled in Washington, D.C.’s Lafayette Square, by President Theodore Roosevelt on 24 May 1902, as a gift from France to the United States. The ceremony was made the occasion 300px-comte_de_rochambeau_statue_dcof a great demonstration of friendship between the two nations. France was represented by ambassador Jules Cambon, Admiral Fournier and General Henri Brugère, as well as a detachment of sailors and marines from the battleship Gaulois. Representatives of the Lafayette and Rochambeau families also attended.

In 1934, American A. Kingsley Macomber donated a statue of General Rochambeau to the city of Newport, Rhode Island. The sculpture is a replica of a statue in Paris. It was from Newport that General Rochambeau departed with his army to join General Washington to march on to the Siege of Yorktown.

Ironically, Lafayette Square in New Orleans has neither a statue of Lafayette, nor one in Rochambeau’s honor, but the city does have a way of creating monumental culinary dishes. Antoine’s Restaurant in New Orleans is famous for its Poulet Rochambeau.

general rochambeau statue.jpg

 

Serves 4

Ingredients:
4 slices French bread toast, 1/2 inch thick rounds, toasted under the broiler on both sides
4 large slices roast chicken
4 large slices boiled or baked ham
1 Tablespoon minced parsley
Dash Worcestershire sauce
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup Béarnaise Sauce
1 cup Marchand de Vin Sauce (See Recipe Below)
Parsley, finely chopped for garnish (See Recipe Below)

Directions:
Heat a large skillet over medium high heat and fry the ham. Warm the chicken slices.

To assemble:
In the center of two heated serving plates, place the French bread rounds. Next, place the ham and top with a generous portion of Marchand de Vin. Place the chicken on top of the Marchand de Vin, finish the dish with a generous portion of Bearnaise. Garnish with the chopped parsley.

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Marchand de Vin Sauce
3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup finely minced ham
1/2 cup finely chopped scallions
1/2 cup finely chopped mushrooms
2 Tablespoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups beef stock
3/4 cup red wine
Salt, to taste
Freshly Ground Black Pepper to taste.
Dash of Cayenne

Directions:
To make the Marchand de Vin Sauce: Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan and sauté the ham, scallions, mushrooms, and garlic over medium heat until the whites of the onions are translucent. Add the flour and cook, stirring often, for about 5-7 minutes. Add the beef stock and red wine  and bring to a boil. Add seasonings. Let simmer for about 40 minutes. The sauce should  be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Set sauce aside until ready to serve.

Béarnaise Sauce
2 sticks unsalted butter
2 Tablespoons finely chopped shallots
2 Tablespoons tarragon vinegar
1 teaspoon crushed black peppercorns
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon dried tarragon
2 egg yolks
1 Tablespoon cold water

Directions:
To Make the Béarnaise Sauce: Add the butter in a small heavy saucepan and let it melt slowly. Skim off the foam that rises to the surface. Heat the shallots, vinegar, peppercorns, salt and tarragon in another saucepan and cook until all the liquid evaporates. Remove from the heat and let the saucepan cool slightly. Add the egg yolks and the water to the shallots.

Return the saucepan to the stove and stir the yolk mixture vigorously over very low heat. Do not overheat or the mixture will curdle. Remove the saucepan from the heat and place it on a cold surface. Add the melted butter, about 2 tablespoons at a time, stirring vigorously after each addition. After incorporating the butter, remove from the heat and set aside until ready to serve.

For the Chicken Rochambeau with Brown Sugar Sauce

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Ingredients:

Brown Sugar Sauce
1 stick unsalted butter
3 Tablespoons all purpose flour
1 cup light brown sugar
Salt, to taste
1/4 cup dry vermouth

Directions:
Prepare the brown sugar sauce by melting the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Add flour and whisk until mixture is a caramel color.  Slowly whisk in the brown sugar ,salt and vermouth.  Increase heat to medium high and whisk constantly until mixture is  slightly thickened, and thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 3 minutes.

Prepare the  toasts, ham , chicken and Béarnaise sauce as indicated above.

To assemble:  Spoon a portion of the brown sugar sauce to the center of the  plate. Place the French bread toast on top of the brown sugar sauce and add the  ham on top of the bread. Top the ham with a generous amount  Béarnaise sauce. Garnish with parsley and serve.

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Caldo Verde

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Caldo verde is  Portuguese for “green broth” and it is also the name of a popular soup in Portuguese cuisine.

regiao_do_minhoCaldo verde originated from the Minho Province in northern Portugal. Today, it is a traditional national favorite that has spread across the nation and abroad, especially to places where a largef811abec93b161685b6126e87c91f216 community of Portuguese immigrants have settled such as Brazil, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Rhode Island. References to the soup appear in several novels by Camilo Castelo Branco ( 1825-1890).

In Portugal, caldo verde is typically consumed during Portuguese celebrations, such as weddings, birthdays, and other popular celebrations such as  the St. John festival, in Braga or Porto. It is sometimes consumed before a main course meal or as a late supper.

The dark green cabbage traditionally used in this Portuguese  soup is not widely available beyond Portugal’s borders. Modern recipes have adapted for the soup to be made with tender kale, potatoes, and chouriço  or linguiça sausages. But given your geographical location and the availability of fresh produce,  collard greens can  be substituted for the kale. Other basic ingredients also include olive, salt and  garlic or onion may be added. In terms of serving, the soup is usually accompanied by  a crusty Portuguese broa de milho  for dipping and sopping up the delicious juices in your bowl.

Broa is a type of cornbread traditionally made in Portugal and Galicia. In Brazil,  it isbroa traditionally seasoned with fennel. Unlike the cornbread typical of the southern United States, broa is made from a mixture of cornmeal and wheat or rye flour, and is leavened with yeast rather than baking powder or baking soda. The name Broa comes from the Gothic word ‘brauth’ that means bread. This yeast bread has the rustic flavor and texture that suitably accompanies soups, especially caldo verde.

And one more thing, don’t forget the final flourish of olive oil. It will perfume the soup, making a perfectly delicious soup to serve on a  cold winter’s day.

Serves 6

Ingredients:
1/2  pound chorizo, linguiça or kielbasa sausages
3/4 pounds kale or collard greens
1/4 cup olive oil
2 large yellow onions, chopped
3 or 4  Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
3 or 4 garlic cloves, finely minced
6 to 7 cups water or chicken stock
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
Extra-virgin olive oil, for serving

Directions:
Bring a saucepan three-fourths full of water to a boil over high heat. Prick the sausages with a fork and add to the boiling water. Boil for about 5 minutes. Using tongs, transfer the sausages to a cutting board and, when cool enough to handle, slice them.  Note: You may discard the sausage-flavored water or reserve it for making the soup.

Rinse and drain the greens, then remove any tough stems. Working in batches, stack the leaves, roll up the stack like a cigar, and cut crosswise into very, very thin strips. Set aside.

In a large soup pot over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the onions and sauté, stirring occasionally, until tender and translucent, about 10 minutes. Increase the heat to medium-high, add the potatoes and garlic and sauté, stirring often, until slightly softened, about 5 minutes. Add the water and salt, reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer until the potatoes are very soft, about 20 minutes.

Scoop out about 2 cups of the potatoes and mash well with a potato masher or fork. Return them to the pan, add the sliced sausages and simmer until the sausages are cooked through, about 5 minutes more. Add the greens, stir well and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 3 to 5 minutes. Do not overcook; the greens should be bright green and slightly crunchy. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

To serve, ladle the soup into warmed bowls and drizzle each serving evenly with extra-virgin olive oil.

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Creamy Polenta

Polenta, in short, is a cornmeal porridge that is a common dish in Northern Italy. It’s frequently eaten with meats and ragù, cheese like gorgonzola, or condiments like mostarda d’uva, a grape-and-nut jam from Piedmont. It can either be eaten freshly cooked, much like a thick porridge, or it can be cooled and then sliced and fried, grilled, or baked.

Long before corn was brought from the Americas to Europe, polenta was already a staple food—it just wasn’t made from corn, obviously. The name originally comes from the Latin word for pearled grain (like barley), and the dish, a gruel that could be made with all sorts of grains and legumes, dates back to Roman times.

Today, it’s no longer associated with those other grains, just corn (or, in the case of polenta taragna, cornmeal mixed with buckwheat). While there are certain heirloom varieties of corn, like otto file and biancoperla, that some prefer over the more generic stuff, for all practical purposes any medium- or coarsely ground cornmeal will do. Even grits, which often have a coarser grind than polenta and are sometimes made with a different variety of corn , are a perfectly acceptable substitute in just about any situation requiring polenta.

The first thing that’s helpful to know is that polenta doesn’t have to be made with a product that says “polenta” on the package. There’s nothing wrong with using a product designed exclusively for polenta, but you can just as easily use any medium or coarse-ground cornmeal.

There are a lot of old wives tales people say you need to follow to make polenta, like using a wooden spoon, stirring in only one direction, adding the polenta to boiling water, and stirring constantly. Forget those rules, because none of them could be further from the truth. What’s really important is using the right ratio of liquid to cornmeal and cooking the polenta long enough for the cornmeal to properly hydrate and cook. Pre-soaking helps hydrate the cornmeal and cuts down on actual cooking time.This recipe allows you to choose whether to use water, stock, or milk as your liquid (though I’m partial to the light, clean flavor of a water-based polenta), and can either be served right away with braised meats or cheese like gorgonzola dolce, or chilled, cut into pieces, and seared, grilled, or fried.

Adapted From
Daniel Gritzer, Culinary Director
SeriousEats.com
May 2015 

Ingredients:
5 cups water, milk, or chicken or vegetables stock (See Cook’s Notes)
1 cup medium or coarse yellow cornmeal (See Cook’s Notes)
Kosher salt, to taste
2 tablespoons unsalted butter or extra-virgin olive oil

Directions:
Pre-soak the  cornmeal, which requires advance planning but cuts cooking time roughly in half, combine water with cornmeal in a large mixing bowl and let stand, covered, at room temperature overnight. When ready to cook, scrape soaked cornmeal and water into a large saucier or saucepan and set over high heat.

Bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Let boil, stirring frequently, until polenta thickens enough that it starts to  sputter or “spit”. Lower heat immediately to prevent spitting and continue to cook, stirring frequently with a spoon or silicone spatula and scraping bottom to prevent scorching, until polenta becomes thick and pulls away from side of saucepan, for  about 30 minutes. Taste and season with salt.

Stir in butter or olive oil using either a spoon, silicon spatula, or whisk. If the polenta forms lumps, beat vigorously with a stiff whisk to remove the lumps. If polenta becomes too firm or begins to set, add a small amount of water, stock, or milk, and beat in with a whisk until fully incorporate and no lumps remain.

Serve right away with accompaniment of your choice, or scrape into a vessel and chill until set, then cut into pieces for grilling, searing, or frying.

Cook’s Notes:
Any medium or coarse cornmeal will work here, whether the package says “polenta” or not; avoid instant polenta, which promises a quick cooking time in exchange for sub-par flavor and texture. For the liquid, milk will produce a rich and creamy polenta that is delicious and indulgent, but also very heavy. Chicken or stock vegetable will infuse the polenta with more flavor, but that flavor can also cover up the taste of the cornmeal. Water produces the lightest polenta with a mild corn flavor that pairs well with everything and won’t leave you feeling weighed down after eating it.

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Chicken Pontalba

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Chicken Pontalba is one of the many signature dishes served at old-line New OrleansMicaela_Pontalba Creole restaurants. This dish was created in New Orleans by Chef Paul Blange in the early days of Brennan’s in the French Quarter during the early 1950s and was a well-established local favorite when the Delmonico re-opened. The recipe is very similar to Chicken Clemenceau, but without the inclusion of green peas. The name Pontalba denotes richness, as the dish is named for  Micaela Leonarda Antonia Almonester y Rojas, Baroness de Pontalba (1795- 1874) who was a wealthy New Orleans-born aristocrat, businesswoman, and real estate developer, and one of the most dynamic personalities of that city’s history.

As  the wealthiest woman in New Orleans she built the opulent Pontalba buildings in 1848, that still flank Jackson Square in the historic French Quarter. The construction of the Pontalba Buildings cost more than $300,000  and she was a constant visitor to the construction sites, often supervising the work on horseback.

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The cast-ironwork decorating the balconies were also her personal design and she had her initials “AP” carved into the center of each section. Considered the oldest apartments in Potatoes Pontalba wrought ironthe country, the buildings continue to house elegant residences upstairs and fine retail shops downstairs. The Baroness was also instrumental in the name change of Place d’Armes to Jackson Square; as well as the decision to convert it from a parade ground to a formal garden. It was alleged that when she was landscaping the garden, she threatened the mayor with a shotgun after he tried to prevent her from tearing down two rows of trees.

Andrew_Jackson_(14130889).jpgShe also helped finance the bronze equestrian statue of Andrew Jackson which features prominently in the square.Legend has it that her friend Andrew Jackson, once failed to raise his hat to the Baroness, so when she funded the statue baring his likeness she insisted that sculptor Clark Mills depict Jackson forever raising his hat toward her apartment building. Probably not true, but it is a great  story.

The Baroness  was also known to give  lavish parties and served rich creative Creole dishes to her guests during these affairs. And in that same  spirit , what could be any more different than the simple ingredients of cooked chicken napped with Bearnaise sauce all on a bed of deep fried potatoes, diced ham, mushrooms, onions, garlic and white wine? Chicken Pontalba, of course, which is a rich and lavish dish that is truly Creole in creation  and meant to be enjoyed as fine  dining.

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Serves 2

Ingredients:
2 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, lightly pounded
1 large baking potato, cut into 1/2- inch dice
3/4 cup ham, diced
1 small white onion, diced
1 1/2 cups baby Portabella mushrooms, thickly sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 Tablespoons Italian parsley, minced
1/2 cup all purpose flour
Kosher salt, to taste
Ground  black pepper, to taste
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter
Vegetable oil

For the Bearnaise Sauce , click here for the recipe 

Directions:
Preheat an oven to 400 ° F.

Toss the Potatoes in 2 tablespoons vegetable oil and season liberally with kosher salt and black pepper. Layer on a baking sheet and bake for 40 minutes or until golden and crispy.

In the meantime, season the flour with salt, black pepper, and cayenne. Season the thighs also, then dredge pieces in the flour.

When the potatoes are almost ready, heat 2 tablespoons butter and 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in a saute pan. When the fat is hot, brown the chicken quickly on both sides, place on a ovenproof dish and finish in the oven.

In the same saute pan, add the ham and onions, saute until golden brown and the onions are tender. Add the mushrooms, garlic, and a tablespoon more butter. Saute for 2 to 3 minutes. Deglaze the pan with the wine, and cook until the alcohol evaporates.

Fold in the brabant potatoes from the oven and 1 tablespoon of the parsley, taste for seasonings. Just before serving, incorporate the last tablespoon of butter.

Split the potato mixture between two heated plates. Top each with a chicken thigh, and finish with a generous drizzle of Bearnaise sauce. Garnish with minced parsley.

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Poulet au Vinaigre

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Chicken with Vinegar Sauce

The French city of Lyon has been internationally known as culinary destination since the 16th Century with its regional specialties that have become elevated in status as Lyonnaise cuisine. These dishes featured summer vegetables from farms in Bresse and Charolais, game from the Dombes, lake fish from Savoy, spring fruits and vegetables from Drôme and Ardèche, and wines from Beaujolais and the Rhone Valley.

In the 18th Century, middle-class women, Mères lyonnaises (Mothers of Lyon) gave birth to Lyon’s current gourmet reputation. These women of modest means, left their homes to work as cooks in large wealthy households in Lyon and eventually started their own businesses, serving dishes that mixed homemade and traditional French cuisine, creating a brand new culinary traditions incorporating their regional roots.The first historical mention of a Mère dates back to Mère Guy in 1759. Located on the Rhône River in the Mulatière region, her self-named guinguette, an open-air restaurant) specialized inmatelote d’anguilles, which was  a dish of stewed eels in white or red-wine sauce.

A century later, Mère Guy’s granddaughters, referred to as La Génie (the Genius) and Maréchal, became the new face of Mère Guy, bringing back classic recipes, including their grandmother’s stewed eels, the dish that “made the Mère Guy reputation.” This reputation attracted honoured guests, including the Empress Eugénie on her annual visit to the thermal waters of neighbouring Aix-les-Bains. Around this time (1830-1850), Mère Brigousse ran a restaurant in the Charpennes district of Lyon. One of her most popular dishes was Tétons de Vénus (En: Venus’ breasts), large breast-shaped quenelles.

Mère Fillioux (Françoise Fillioux, 1865-1925) was the first Mère whose “reputation was known well beyond the limits of the city and region.” She established a restaurant on 73 rue Duquesne, k833_001.jpgnown for a simple, unchanging menu featuring her own culinary creations, such as volaille demi-deuil  (Fowl in half-mourning). The dish takes its name from her technique of cooking “a fattened hen with slivers of truffle inserted between skin and flesh. The alternating black and white appearance of the flesh explains the term ‘half mourning’, a period following the all-black dress of full mourning, when it was acceptable for widows to alternate black and white or grey clothing.”  Their success was linked to the rise of automobile tourism, as promoted by the Michelin Guide, and the development of the city of Lyon under mayor Edouard Herriot. While the Mères started out serving a client base of working-class people, such as journeymen, in this industrial city, the reputation of their meals soon spread to a much wealthier clientele. Celebrities, businessmen and politicians came to frequent these establishments despite the mixing of the social classes, particularly in the Golden Age of the Mères, during the Inter-War period. They offered a menu that was simple (four or five traditional dishes yet refined enough to guarantee both culinary pleasure and a welcoming ambiance.

Many more women joined their numbers during the Great Depression, when they were let go from the wealthy households that employed them. In 1935, the famed food critic Curnonsky, also known as Maurice Edmond Sailland (181304362257curnonsky.jpg72-1956), did not hesitate to describe the city of Lyon as the “world capital of gastronomy.” In the 21st Century, Lyon’s cuisine is defined by simplicity and quality, and is exported to other parts of France and abroad. With more than a thousand eateries, the city of Lyon has one of the highest concentrations of restaurants per capita in France.

There is nothing fussy about Lyonnaise cuisine. It just plain tastes good, really good, and you can get a lot of it on your  plate without breaking your budget trying to feed a hungry crowd. And poulet au vinaigre is one of the most potently consoling dishes ever to come from the French kitchen.

The chicken is browned and then simmered in a sauce built in two stages with stock, white wine, vinegar, shallots, garlic, onions, tomatoes and cream. While the trio of alliums gives it a rich depth of flavor, it’s the racy if cream-muffled notes of acidity from the tomatoes, vinegar and wine that make this dish so satisfying, leaving you very happy and deeply nourished. Poulet au vinaigre   is the perfect  dish  to invite friends over for dinner during the cold  winter months, and to enjoy  it with a good rustic bread and fine bottle of Burgundy.

Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients:
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
One 3- to 4-pound chicken, cut into 8 pieces
6 large cloves garlic, unpeeled
1 large white onion, finely chopped
2 shallots, finely chopped
1 Tablespoon all-purpose flour
4 Roma tomatoes, skinned, seeded and finely chopped
2 cups dry white wine
1 cup red wine vinegar
¾ cup chicken stock
2 sprigs fresh tarragon or 1 teaspoon dried, plus fresh tarragon leaves for garnish
(optional)
½ teaspoon dried thyme
Kosher salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 cups light cream
Cooked white rice, for serving

Directions:
Heat butter in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Working in batches, add chicken and cook, turning to brown all over, 3-4 minutes per side. Set aside on a plate and tent with foil to keep warm.

To the same Dutch oven, add garlic, onions and shallots and sauté over medium-low heat until transparent but not browned, 8-10 minutes. Sprinkle with flour, then add tomatoes, wine, vinegar, stock, tarragon, thyme and salt and pepper to taste. Mix and bring to a low boil over medium heat. Return chicken pieces to pan, lower heat to medium-low, and cook, partially covered, until chicken is tender and cooked through, 45 minutes.

Remove chicken pieces. Add cream and cook, stirring occasionally, over medium-low heat, 1 hour. Pass sauce through a strainer or fine-mesh sieve. Adjust seasoning if needed. Return chicken and sauce to pot and place over medium heat to warm, 5 minutes.

To serve, arrange chicken pieces over white rice. Spoon sauce over chicken and sprinkle with fresh tarragon, if using.

 

 

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All photographs and content are copyright protected. Please do not use these photos without prior written permission. If you wish to republish this photograph and all other contents, then we kindly ask that you link back to this site. We are eternally grateful and we appreciate your support of this blog.

Thank you so much!

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